Anji Nine Dragon Valley

Apologies for the short break in transmission but I have been in the wifi-less wilds of the Anji Bamboo Forests for the last 3 days. Escaping from the urban jungle for my birthday, we drove for hours to a remote spot about an hour past Moganshan, through Anji township to the magnificent and sparsely populated Nine Dragon Valley.

This place is incredibly beautiful - lush green bamboo densely covers the steep hills, and between the hills mountain streams run cold and deep, spilling over into small waterfalls. From the top of the mountain to the bottom are nine waterfalls, each representing a mythical dragon with its own story. Dragons figure heavily in the myths and legends attached to natural wonders in China, and this place has nine dragons! Very auspicious. 

Although it was the weekend, it wasn't crowded. A lot of Anji's tourists come from Shanghai, and as everyone back in Shanghai was working the weekend to make up for this week's three day Dragon Boat Festival, we were just about the only visitors. Perfect.

We took a trail walk up and over the mountain top on the first morning, to work up a big appetite for lunch (isn't that why anyone goes for a long walk??). It's been a long time since I was surrounded by so much green - as you walk through the bamboo forest the ground is covered with tiny wildflowers of all colours, but around you and above you is nothing but green - as the light filters through the top of the bamboo it becomes the colour of jade, and under the bamboo canopy it feels cool even though the day is hot and humid. 

The bamboo forest looks wild, but all this bamboo is being cultivated for harvest, and every trunk is marked with the name of the farmer, and the age of the bamboo so that it can be cut down at the correct time. Bamboo shoots not intended for cultivation are cut off for food, and many of Anji's famous dishes centre around fresh or dried bamboo shoots. 

Anji's hills also produce some of the most famous green tea in China, Anji White Tea (Anji Báichá 安吉 白茶) Every tiny plot of land not given over to bamboo farming is used to plant terraced rows of tea bushes, many clinging precariously to the sides of the steepest hills. The fresh green tips are picked and dried to make the tea - a delicate, light-flavoured and very pure green tea. 

After hours of climbing and clambering over and down each of the Nine Dragon waterfalls we returned at last to the base of the Nine Dragon Valley and cooled our hot feet in the river. Time for lunch!

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